Thursday, 11 March 2010
Head Shops: Statements (Resumed)
John Curran (Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration and Community, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
Senator Glynn referred to products sent in the post. There are two distinctions. I am not dealing with medicinal products, but products sold as plant food and so on which are obviously not intended for human consumption will be added to the controlled list and made illegal. I met Customs officials to ensure they would be able to intercept these products in the postal system and take appropriate steps.
Senator McFadden raised the complex revenue issue. Until something is declared illegal, it can be sold and the normal tax liabilities apply. It is only after we declare a product illegal that we can take action. This is the dilemma in saying we will not take revenue and the shops can sell what they want, while, at the same time, the product is not illegal per se but we have gone after it.
Education and awareness are hugely important. While we address head shops and their products and try to reduce supply, it is equally important that we increase people's education and awareness of the dangers. The HSE is working on an education campaign. If we did no more than encourage young people to be aware that just because these products are currently legal, they are not safe, it would be positive. There are no guarantees with them. Task forces, youth projects and educators have a significant role to play in getting across this message because the perception of these products is as they can be bought in a retail premises, therefore, they must be legal and safe. They are not regulated or safe; because something is not illegal does not necessarily mean it is safe. It is hugely important to get this message across.
The drugs strategy has always been based on five pillars. We have addressed supply reduction, but if we are to radically address the drugs problem over a generation, it will only be done through education, increasing awareness and empowering young people to know the difference. When I visit classrooms, particularly those with junior and leaving certificate students, I often refer to the fact that in ten years or more they will be the parents of the next generation. This comes around quickly. We need to make people aware and change attitudes.